Here’s the trouble with those “non-toxic” algae blooms

Each time the noctiluca bloom paints Holmes Harbor red someone reports, in the paper, or elsewhere, that it is not toxic.

That’s good news, as far as it goes. No one is going to get sick from swimming in the water or breathing the increasingly stinky fumes. But the ever increasing quantity and frequency of the blooms is still something we need to find a solution for.

The bad smell noctiluca leaves behind is the result of the organisms dying then decaying – a process which uses up the oxygen in the water.

This week Hood Canal is again in the headlines due to the downward spiral scientists are seeing in the oxygen levels of the canal and the concerns that raises. This is from an Associated Press article.

“… studies have shown sunny weather stimulates the growth of plankton, whose decay after death require oxygen.

When oxygen levels become low, the risk of a sudden fish kill increases under certain wind conditions.

In most years, the lowest average oxygen concentration is measured in early September, then gradually increases through the winter.”

Holmes Harbor is also known for low dissolved oxygen levels so a similar condition could happen here. As far as I know no one is studying why the noctiluca blooms are getting worse in Holmes Harbor and what problems they may be causing for fish, eelgrass, intertidal (mud flat) dwelling creatures etc.

I’d like to see some of those stimulus funds put to work here!

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